Over the years, I've known, or heard of, a number of gay male couples who broke up because of jealousy. Both men in each couple may have been completely faithful, but, because one was jealous of the other--and, let's face it, no one does jealous better than a spurned gay man--the couple was propelled along the treacherous path of no longer trusting each other.
And, where there may have been no infidelity before, there certainly was soon after. Part of that, I think, is little more than some believing monogamy is impossible between gay men. But, also, part of it is many of us are filled with shame because we're gay (read: aren't comfortable with ourselves), and feel insecure or unworthy of the partner we have.
I'm sure you've heard the expression, "He doesn't have a jealous bone in his body." Well, no truer words could describe Chris, my partner of the past nineteen years. Early in our relationship, I hoped to make Chris a little jealous, not by fooling around with another man, but by ogling a cute specimen on the street or at the club.
Yes, I was insecure, and, as a means of getting the reassurance I needed Chris was genuinely interested in me, I made like I was attracted to someone else, just to get a reaction. Please let him be just a little jealous, I thought. Please let me know it's me you really want to be with, and that you have haven't just defaulted to me because no one else is interested in you right now.
My attempts failed. Miserably. Because, to my surprise, Chris doesn't get jealous. He really doesn't. When he noticed me looking at someone else, I'd ask him, "Aren't you even a little bit jealous?" And his answer was always the same: "If you don't want to be with me, then there's no point trying to keep you." Which I hated at first.
It made Chris sound like he didn't care one way or the other that he was with me. It made it sound like he'd make no effort whatsoever to fight for me, that he'd failed to see how much we had together, and he could just as easily let me go as not buy a cup of coffee. In effect, my little test backfired. I didn't get the reassurance I wanted at all.
But, over time, I saw what Chris's response really meant. It didn't mean he had no feelings for me, or he no longer wanted to be with me, or he'd failed to see how good we were together and how much potential we had as a couple. Rather, it meant, "I love you and I want you, but, if you don't want to be with me, then what can I do? I can't force you to love me and be with me if you don't want to. Our relationship isn't a prison. If you want to be with me, great. If you don't--if you see something else you like--then follow your heart and do what you have to do. I'll be hurt, of course, but I'll accept your choice. I'll trust your judgment. And I'll wish you well."
When I finally got the message, I realized how much Chris really did love me after all--enough to let me go if that's what I really wanted. Enough to set me free to love, and live my life with, someone else. Enough to accept that I no longer loved him or wanted to be with him. If that didn't demonstrate the full extent of his love, nothing else could.
And, frankly, it made me want him even more, because--as if I didn't know what a quality person he was already--it meant there'd be no jealousy drama in our life together, which is so characteristic of many gay male relationships. It meant he would never try to hang on to me if there was no point. And it meant I was free to stay or go. The decision was mine.
I made the best damn decision of my life.